By Tracy Correa
BAKERSFIELD — Seated at the end of a large office desk, Eilene Reynolds was just starting to settle into her new work space at Kern County Builders’ Exchange in Bakersfield.
The 17-year-old is one of 58 Kern County teens who landed a paid summer job as one of PG&E’s 2013 Summer Jobs Program and she had a smile that showed just how thrilled she was her first day on the job.
“I’m happy because it is money and I have something to do over the summer,” said Eilene. “And I feel comfortable here,” said the recent high school graduate.
Eilene was among the 58 teens in Bakersfield who started work on Monday (June 17). Another 105 started work in Fresno and 56 teens will start work next week in the Sacramento area.
A year ago, PG&E launched the jobs program with a $200,000 grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County. The program provided paid summer jobs for 55 teens and career training for more than 150 teens. The 15-to 18-year-old students who landed jobs were from some of the neediest neighborhoods and earned $1,600 during their employment.
Now, in addition to expanding the program in Fresno, two more communities are benefiting from the program through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento and Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County. In addition to those who were hired for jobs, hundreds more benefitted from career-building skills — about 300 teens in Kern, 200 in Sacramento and 270 in Fresno. The students learned everything from how to build resumes to interviewing techniques.
The Kern County Builders’ Exchange is just one of the Bakersfield businesses with a student placement for the six-week work program. The nonprofit organization works with the building industry — including contractors, engineers and architects — to provide members assistance during the pre-bid construction process.
Mikin McClanahan, executive director of Kern County Builders’ Exchange, said the summer jobs program not only helps the teens, but also gives participating companies an extra employee at no cost.
“I think she can help with picking up little details, stuff we have set aside,” said McClanahan. “We also look at it as an opportunity to help her [Eilene].”
On Monday, Eilene sorted through paperwork to help identify construction jobs that could be posted by the exchange. The money she earns this summer will help with books and supplies when she starts Bakersfield College in the fall. “I’m saving everything,” she said.
Growing business participation
Other Kern County businesses employing teen workers include House of Flowers, the food bank operated by Community Action Partnership of Kern and Bakersfield City Councilmember Russell Johnson’s office.
About two hours north of Bakersfield, Fresno teens settled into jobs at Me-n-Ed’s Pizza, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California. Seven of the teens will be working and training as lifeguards at four learner pools for children in primarily underserved areas of the city.
The teens’ salaries, work attire and bus passes are covered by PG&E’s grants to the Boys & Girls Clubs; $212,000 each in Kern and Sacramento and $310,000 in Fresno.
Renee Stancil, area program director with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County, said students were overjoyed when they gathered last week to finalize work assignments and go over last-minute details for reporting to their new jobs.
“They were so excited… You should have heard the roar in the room,” she said. “And they realize this program wouldn’t be possible without PG&E’s support.”
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.